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News for, and by, our local legal community, curated and created by the Santa Clara County Bar. The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' own and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, its members, its employees, or its governing board.

 

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Ruling offers workers a way to file claims without arbitration

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 1, 2015

Employees in California can file whistle-blower claims against their employers on behalf of themselves and their fellow workers, a federal appeals court ruled Monday in a long-sought victory for employees confronting a case-by-case, business-friendly arbitration system.

The 2-1 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco followed last year’s California Supreme Court decision, in a separate case, allowing employees to invoke the Private Attorney General Act against employers who violate state labor laws. That law sets monetary penalties for violations — typically, $100 per employee for each pay period of violations and $200 per employee for repeated violations — and awards 25 percent of the money to the employees, and the rest to the state.

Employees can rely on that law, the state court said, even if their employment contract required all workplace disputes to be resolved in individual arbitrations before a private panel, with little right to appeal.

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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Convicted Santa Clara County judge can't get pension back

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 1, 2015

Former Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Danser, convicted in a ticket-fixing scandal more than a decade ago, is not entitled to the restoration of his judicial pension benefits, a state appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The Sacramento-based Third District Court of Appeal rejected Danser's argument that he should not have been stripped of the pension benefits because his initial felony conviction in the scandal was later reduced to a misdemeanor. The appeals court found that laws forcing judges to relinquish their state benefits if convicted of certain crimes applied to Danser.

Danser was convicted in 2004 of one felony and eight misdemeanors for providing preferential treatment to friends and some members of the San Jose Sharks and San Jose Earthquakes in his handling of 29 traffic ticket cases and four DUI cases.

Read the whole story at San Jose Mercury News

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California public safety overhauls show promise, but problems remain

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 1, 2015

A contentious program that shifted control of some state prisoners to local governments dramatically reduced the prison population in California, but the decrease was not enough to meet a federal court order, according to a report released Monday.

It was only after statewide voters last fall approved reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes that the prison population fell below the mandated target, said the new analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California. It has remained there since January, more than a year ahead of schedule.

Public safety realignment, launched four years ago, was considered one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s largest political and policy hurdles since he returned to the Governor’s Office in 2011. Brown, responding to the prison reduction order, argued that local authorities were better positioned to deal with alleviating the overcrowding crisis. But his critics, including law-and-order Republicans and some in law enforcement, asserted the changes would lead to a spike in crime.

PPIC makes no wholesale claims about the efficacy of the program. However, it provides a snapshot of its early effects as new reforms continue to take hold, including November’s successful Proposition 47 that changed most nonviolent property and drug crimes to misdemeanors from felonies.

Read the whole story at Sac Bee

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Kleiner Lawyers See Pao Business Bump

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 30, 2015

You might call it the Pao Bump.

It's been six months since Ellen Pao lost her gender-bias case against venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, but the lawyers involved in her trial are still riding a wave of publicity that's better for business than any campaign a pricey advertising firm could dream up.

The business boost has been particularly obvious for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where a team led by partner Lynne Hermle scored the victory for Kleiner Perkins. Hermle has personally stepped into at least four new cases since the jury verdict, as counsel to Twitter Inc., Broadcom Corp., Fitbit Inc. and a San Francisco venture-capital firm.

"[The trial] was a unique opportunity for the world, including clients, to get a real view of her talent and the talent of our team," said Orrick partner Walter Brown Jr., a member of the firm's management committee. "The market came to us."

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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Attorney gets jail time, probation for deadly Dublin hit-and-run

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A San Francisco labor attorney will serve at least 30 days in jail for killing a Chinese tourist in a hit-and-run accident in Dublin in 2012, an Alameda County judge ordered Friday.

Judge Michael Gaffey sentenced Spencer Freeman Smith, 34, to five years felony probation and a year in county jail but noted that Smith could apply to serve out his jail sentence via electronic home detention after spending 30 days at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Smith was living in San Ramon and working at a San Francisco law firm when he fatally hit Chinese financial adviser Bo Hu on Dougherty Road late on March 12, 2012.

Authorities believe Hu, 57, died instantly after bouncing off of the hood and windshield of Smith's 2012 Mercedes-Benz sedan.

Smith did not apply his brakes after the impact and drove away from the scene, only to be confronted by Dublin police the following day.

Read the whole story at San Jose Mercury News

 

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Scalia says he 'wouldn't be surprised' if SCOTUS overturns the death penalty

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Justice Antonin Scalia delivered his standard defense of originalism in a speech on Tuesday that included an unusual observation about the justices’ stance on capital punishment: Scalia said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the death penalty.

Scalia told students at Rhodes College he has four colleagues who believe the death penalty is unconstitutional, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The Associated Press also covered the speech, but did not include Scalia’s death-penalty remarks.

In a June dissent by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he called for a briefing on whether the death penalty is constitutional. “I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment,” Breyer said in the dissent.

Read the whole story at ABA Journal

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Nine Silicon Valley Legal Charities Collaborate to Offer Pro Bono Training Day

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 28, 2015

Nine Silicon Valley legal charities are coming together to jointly offer a Pro Bono Training Day for attorneys who are interested in providing pro bono legal services.  Most legal charities put volunteers through subject-matter training to prepare them for the type of cases they will work on.  Participants in the Pro Bono Training Day can satisfy training requirements for multiple organizations at once while learning about pro bono opportunities available through the participating charities.  Topics to be covered include housing, family law, immigration, and seniors/youth.

The event will take place on October 27 from 1:30 - 5:30 p.m. at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto.  3.0 hours of MCLE credit will be offered, including one hour of “elimination of bias” credit.  A barbecue will follow the training sessions.  For more information or to register, visit http://www.thecampaignsv.org/participate.aspx.

The Campaign for Legal Services is organizing the event.  The other participating charities include Asian Law Alliance, Bay Area Legal Aid, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, Pro Bono Project, and Senior Adults Legal Assistance.

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The American Bar Association Should Create a More Meaningful Bar Exam

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 24, 2015

The number of law students who pass the bar has fallen for three reasons. First, some law schools are admitting students with very weak LSAT scores. Weak scores don’t dictate bar failure, but they correlate positively with it. Second, a glitch in the exam software that graduates use to submit the test disrupted (and depressed) last year’s bar outcomes. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (N.C.B.E.)refused to account for a difference between that exam and smoothly administered ones, causing more than 1,000 hard-working examinees to fail the July 2014 bar when they should have passed.

Third, this year the N.C.B.E. added a seventh subject(civil procedure) to the multistate portion of the bar. It's not surprising that the addition lowered scores: The bar exam is a closed book test, and examinees must memorize hundreds of legal rules for it, even though they consult cases and statutes as practicing lawyers. With an additional subject to memorize, graduates had less time to devote to each subject.

Read the whole story at NY Times

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Scalia addresses Constitution, same-sex marriage in speech

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 24, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday criticized judges who believe the Constitution is a “living” document, saying they amount to policy makers who are rewriting it and making moral decisions for the entire country about same-sex marriage and other issues. He also referred to this summer’s same-sex marriage ruling as “extreme.”

Scalia spoke to about 500 people at Rhodes College, where he was invited to deliver the school’s annual Constitution Day lecture. He is the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Reagan in 1986.

In his speech, Scalia distinguished “originalism,” which calls for adherence to the original text and meaning of the Constitution when interpreting it, from the theory of a “living” Constitution, which views the document as one that evolves and changes over time without being amended.

“They’re not adhering to the text, they’re operating as policy makers,” Scalia, an “originalist,” said of believers in a “living” Constitution. “They’re not interpreting the constitution. They’re writing one, they’re revising one.”

Read the whole story at Seattle Times

 

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This New Website Promises to Handle Your Entire Divorce And Filing Costs Just $99

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 24, 2015

A new website aims to take much of the heartache and cost out of getting a divorce by conducting the whole process online.

Presented at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Tuesday,Separate.us, founded by Sandro Tuzzo and Larry Maloney, aims to distill legal jargon into plain language and reduce legal fees from tens of thousands of dollars to base price of around $1,500. Initial filing costs just $99.

“Today, connecting is easy. There’s tons of software applications out there for that,” Tuzzo said onstage at the event. “But what if you need to end a relationship, where are the tools for that?”

Read the whole story at Time

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